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WCLDN 2017 preview: Ross Wintle and Graham Armfield

With WordCamp London 2017 approaching fast, we’re talking with two more great speakers. You might recall our last preview with Heather Burns and Alain Schessler, this time we talk with Ross Wintle and Graham Armfield.


Ross Wintle

 

1) Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a software developer, problem solver, engineer, creator, and technology advisor. I was born in Swindon in the west of the UK and moved away in my teens vowing that I would never move back to Swindon and I would never work for myself. I now live in Swindon again and…err…well…I work for myself.

I studied computer science at university then worked in safety critical software development and safety engineering for four years, and in a large corporate hosting and IT department for eight years doing third line support and engineering before going freelance as a web developer.

I love using technology to solve real world problems and to help people. My freelance career has mostly focussed on applying WordPress within the charity and non-profit sector at all sorts of scales and complexities. Everything from simple sites for local heritage organisations to complex applications for large NGOs. I should add my thanks to 34SP for supporting several of these organisations with free hosting.

I’m a pragmatic developer. WordPress is not always the answer. I believe that software is a tool and that coding is creative. I believe that good communication is more of a cultural problem than a technological one. Yes, I enjoy sitting in the corner and coding, but I’m building tools for people and so understanding people is important too.

I’m an exhausted but dedicated father; and a blessed husband and son. I love to cycle. I’m scared of elephants.

2) Can you give us a sneak peak into your talk, and what attendees should be able to take away from it?

With modern computers, software and internet speeds, video is easier to make and watch than ever. Tools for recording on-screen tutorials are cheap and easy to use. And I’ve found that screen recordings, or “screencasts” have been a great way for me to both learn, and teach.

The ability to easily create and share screencasts, videos and animated GIFs has transformed how I communicate with my clients. User training, software testing, technical support and working in a remote team are all activities that can benefit from screencasting.

My talk will explain why you should do it and how you can do it. I’ll look at why it’s good for you, why it’s good for your users and clients, and why, with a little extra effort, it can be good for others too.

I’ll introduce the tools you might need (it’s OK – getting started is really cheap!) and give you a bunch of tips I’ve learned along the way, so you don’t have to learn them the hard way yourself.

Everyone can benefit from sharing their screen – so come along and find out how!

3) As a speaker at WordCamp I imagine WordPress features in your life in at least some small way. What’s your WordPress journey, where has WordPress taken you?

I remember quite specifically explaining to my then-girlfriend-now-wife back in 2003 that there was this cool new thing called “blogging” and that I was going to start a “blog”. I think she thought I was a bit crazy. I started on Blogger, but moved to WordPress later on.

Fast forward to 2011 and, fed up with the corporate world, eager to realise the potential of open source tools, and with a few month’s cash in the bank, I left to work for myself. Building a portfolio of small WordPress sites was my first goal. And it went from there. Six years later and I seem to have accidentally become a WordPress expert who makes a living primarily using this wonderful, ever-evolving, ever-present, imperfect piece of software and who tries to give something back to WordPress whenever I can.

WordPress has changed my life by giving me many, many opportunities that I would never have otherwise have got.

My wife still thinks I’m a bit crazy.


Graham Armfield

 

1) Tell us a little about yourself

I’m a Web Accessibility Consultant for my own company Coolfields Consulting. I work for a variety of clients showing people (mainly developers) how to build websites and apps to be accessible. I’ve written and delivered training courses on accessibility for developers, and to teach people how to carry out accessibility testing.

I’ve been passionate about web accessibility for the last 15 years – since I learned how easy it was to tweak a website so that a screen reader user could use it as readily as anyone else. The web was always supposed to be a resource for everyone, and learning and doing accessibility ensures that that’s true.

When I’m not working you’ll probably find me playing my guitar. I’m a songwriter and I really enjoy taking my songs to various open mic nights around and about. I’m just about to start recording my next album.

2) Can you give us a sneak peak into your talk, and what attendees should be able to take away from it?

My talk to WordCamp London is entitled ‘Designing for Accessibility’, and it came about after I’d done a few training courses in accessibility for developers at various companies. I was teaching them the various techniques, but I would often be told “Yes I can see that, but the designers have specified that the page needs to be like this”. So I felt it would be useful to have a look at some of the ways that designers can influence the accessibility of a website – before it even gets to the developers.

I’ll be looking at a number of things, including obvious ones like the use of colour and colour contrast, but also ensuring designs work for those who rely on keyboard use, or who want to make the text much bigger.

Whilst I don’t want to dictate what designers should do, I’d like people to realise how their design decisions can affect how easy (or difficult) it is for people to use the resultant websites and apps.

3) As a speaker at WordCamp I imagine WordPress features in your life in at least some small way. What’s your WordPress journey, where has WordPress taken you?

Having left a large financial organisation seven years ago to set up on my own, I needed to create a website for my new company. After an initial start with a hand coded site, I realised I needed a blog, and that’s when I found WordPress. I quickly saw that I could run my entire site using WordPress, and that it was a great way of building sites for others.

So WordPress helped support my web development business in the early days, when I wasn’t getting so many web accessibility assignments as I am today. And then the two combined when clients started coming to me specifically because I could build them an accessible WordPress site. It was only when I had a couple of clients that were blind that I realised what an awful experience the WordPress admin screens were from an accessibility perspective. I became a member of the Make WordPress Accessible team – reporting accessibility defects on Trac, and suggesting fixes. I felt really proud when one of my accessibility fixes was included in a WordPress release.

After an invitation to speak on accessibility at WordCamp Edinburgh in 2012, my WordCamp journey began, and I try to attend as many as I can. I’ve spoken at many of them too.

My accessibility consultancy and training work may have moved me away from WordPress over the last year or so, but the desire to still be part of the WordPress community is strong. And the community is one of the most powerful and positive aspects that WordPress has. I’ve rubbed shoulders with some really talented and really welcoming, friendly people – and that will stay with me always.